After 40 years at the Opera, Aurélie Dupont leaves to “live differently”

published on Sunday, June 19, 2022 at 1:01 p.m.

The resignation of Aurélie Dupont, who had directed the Paris Opera Ballet for six years, came as a surprise, but the ex-star dancer assures AFP that she is leaving to “live differently” .

Appointed in 2016 to replace Benjamin Millepied, she succeeded in filling the halls, opening the Opera to young choreographers and stresses that there have been “many changes” in relations with dancers, some of whom had criticized in an internal poll in 2018.

Q: Why this surprise resignation?

A: It’s not a sudden decision but a well-considered one; I have worked at the Paris Opera for 40 years; I am very proud to leave a company in great shape, with a program until July 2025, so naturally, I wanted to leave. It’s been a little over six years since I’ve been in charge, it’s more than the time I spent at the Dance School as a “little rat”. I had always told my team that I would leave at 50 (she is 49, editor’s note); there is also a desire to live differently.

Q: Is this related to the recent star nomination that you would be opposed to?

A: This is not reality; I have a very good relationship with François (Alu) and having discussed a lot with him, we have a lot in common. I have always been in favor of his appointment but it is up to the general manager of the Opera to accept or not. I was very happy that my proposal was accepted by Alexander (Neef, director of the Opera). I understood that the fans were, like all of us, very happy to see François on stage.

Q: Do you think you have been unfairly criticized for your leadership style?

A: I ran the company with all my heart; I did the best I could, I questioned myself a lot of times. I followed my artistic vision. That the media announce things that are sometimes false, unfortunately, I cannot escape it.

Q: What about the relationship with the dancers after the criticisms that were addressed to you in 2018?

A: In six years, there have been many, many developments. I set up very regular meetings with the dancers. I had the feeling of having really brought things in terms of communication.

Q: What challenges were you not expecting?

A: I always felt legitimate because as an ex-star, when I program classical ballets, I have a lot of pleasure in passing on the role, and that’s something that is never taken away from me. Afterwards, I realized that there was a pressure that I didn’t worry about when I was a prima ballerina: the occupancy rate, the receipts for Bastille and Garnier; there was 98% fill for the dance even after the pandemic; we went to an average of 23, 24 million receipts under my direction, against 17 million before.

Q: What are you most proud of?

A: To have succeeded in highlighting everyone’s talent. There are dancers who are made to be stars, who excel in classical dance, others in contemporary. I’m quite proud of having taught them to highlight their qualities and not their faults. During the pandemic, we did everything to keep them motivated, psychologically supported. This is an extremely curious generation and open to the world. They inspired me, I wanted to make them independent by inviting choreographers who came from everywhere.

Q: What can you say about your projects?

A: I have been asked several times to write a book. I have a book project where I talk about my journey. I will lecture on resilience; I want to spend more time with my two boys aged 14 and 11. As for the musical, it’s a childhood dream; I’m going to take on the artistic direction of a production. I’m going to do in one evening what I do in a year at the Opera!

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